Back to the future — Winchester style

Published on Winchester Sun, by Pete Koutoulas, December 26th 2019, 2:49:04 pm

It’s late December, a time of reflection and dreaming about what the new year may bring. I’m dreaming of what 2020 may have in store for Winchester and Clark County. So let’s go “back to the future.” If I were to write a wrap-up column this time next year, it might go something like the following.

(Thanks to my Facebook friends who responded to my call for ideas.)

In January, broadband Internet provider MetroNet announced plans to expand its service area into Winchester and most of Clark County. Finally, residents with only “slow” Internet will have the ability to join the streaming revolution.

In February, as the old Spharr building was being demolished, a developer announced plans for a new building on the site. The project was to incorporate elements of the historic building and pay homage to its rich history. The new three-story structure — dubbed “The Depot” — was expected to house retail and offices on the ground floor and apartments on the second and third floors.

In March, a local business operator announced they had purchased the old IGA building on North Main street and intended to re-open the grocery store. The new store would offer a wide range of fresh foods, including a large selection of locally-sourced produce and meats.

April’s showing of “Our Town” at Leed’s Center for the Arts concluded the most successful theatrical season ever. The center continues its steady growth. There is much anticipation for the pending announcement of the lineup for 2020–21.

In May, news broke of a new entertainment complex planned for Bypass Road. The new business would be targeted at children and young adults. Modeled after Lexington’s Malibu Jack’s, the new complex was to include a bowling alley, mini-golf, go-carts, hundreds of games and other activities, as well as food.

The state transportation cabinet announced in June that funding had been secured for three important road projects in Winchester. All three were slated to begin construction within two years. These included the 7th Street extension, the Veterans Memorial extension to Boonesboro Road, and the Fulton Road connector linking the two segments of Fulton Road and creating a new route between Bypass Road and downtown.

In July came word from Walk-Bike Clark County that funding had been secured for a significant expansion of sidewalks and multi-use trails in and around Winchester. A total of five miles of new sidewalks and trails were to be constructed in the near future, linking up many neighborhoods that had been without connections to the rest of the town.

The news came in August that a local developer had purchased several prominent downtown buildings and planned to do complete renovation and restoration on the historic structures. When completed, the buildings would house retail and affordable housing.

A new public-private initiative was announced in September to market Winchester and Clark County to surrounding areas. Noting that bringing in dollars from outside the community builds strength in the local economy, a $100,000 ad campaign kicked off with the announcement that the old Skyvue Drive-In theater would re-open soon.

In October, the second annual Hemp Harvest Festival was a huge success, wrapping up a successful year for local festivals. Between the Beer Cheese, Daniel Boone Pioneer and Hemp Harvest festivals, it was estimated that attendance was up by 20 percent. And the economic impact on Winchester and Clark County was up by a significant amount. Other events, such as Rock the Block, also saw significant attendance increases.

A report on volunteering in Clark County was released in November. The report showed an incredible 150% increase in volunteer hours over the previous 12-month period. Many local groups depend on volunteers to help them achieve their missions of providing emergency assistance, food, temporary housing, animal rescue and adoption, and numerous other benefits to the local community. Without volunteers, many of these needs would go unmet.

In December, the Chamber of Commerce announced that during 2020, a total of 25 new businesses had opened in Clark County, and over 500 new jobs had been created. According to the chamber report, there were only two vacant storefronts remaining on Main Street by December.

Also in December, the 10th annual Good-Giving Challenge raised over $550,000 in donations for Clark County nonprofits, representing a massive increase over the previous year.

Granted, this is all a dream — and a few of these potential developments may seem a bit far-fetched. But unless we are willing to dream big, how can we ever hope to achieve great things?

Here’s wishing you and all of our community a safe, happy, peaceful, and prosperous new year.

Pete Koutoulas is an IT professional working in Lexington. He and his wife have resided in Winchester since 2015. Pete can be reached at pete@koutoulas.me or follow him on Twitter @PeteKoutoulas.

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